Guess what's missing from CNN's list of theories for Hillary Clinton's sinking favorability

CNN’s Chris Cillizza published a piece today offering four possible explanations for the decline in Hillary Clinton’s popularity. In case you missed this story, Allahpundit noted yesterday that Hillary is at her lowest favorability rating ever according to Gallup, just 36 percent. Cillizza promises four theories but he really only offers three as you’ll see in a moment. But what may be most interesting is what is absent from his list: Any mention of the current national moment on sexual harassment and how that might be impacting views of Hillary and her husband.

Here are Cillizza’s four explanation with a snippet of what he wrote about each:

  1. The 2016 race has never really ended – “Trump talks about his “electoral landslide” on an, at least, weekly basis — ensuring that people never forget about what all sides agree was an incredibly nasty campaign.”
  2. Clinton isn’t sorry – “The publicity tour around Clinton’s memoir of the campaign — “What Happened?” — had a very clear message from Clinton: Yes, I lost. But, it’s wasn’t entirely (or even close to entirely) my fault.”
  3. She is the last Republican boogeyman – “Her numbers among Democrats are virtually unchanged from 6 months ago — 79% approval then, 78% now. But, her numbers among Republicans, which were never good, have fallen even further; just 5% of GOPers approve of Clinton now as compared to 11% in June 2017.”
  4. We’re still too close to it all – “We may just be standing too close to the painting to properly analyze it. Maybe in 2 years or 5 years, Clinton’s approval rating will be well back over 50% and we’ll all wonder what the hubbub in 2017 was all about.”

Number four doesn’t count because it doesn’t attempt to explain Clinton’s decline, it just suggests it won’t last. So I’m only giving Cillizza credit for three attempted explanations. I’ll discuss those three in a moment, but first, notice that there’s no mention of another obvious possibility: Hillary is still defending Bill. 

This has obviously become a big issue in the wake of the Weinstein allegations. Bill Clinton has been getting some long-overdue blowback for his behavior, even from progressives. But when Hillary was asked about this in October, she replied, “I mean that was the subject of a huge investigation as you might recall in the late 90s and there were conclusions drawn and that was clearly in the past.”

Hillary may think this is all in the past, but a poll last month suggests otherwise. HuffPost and YouGov found that 53% of Clinton’s voters and 84% of Trump’s voters believe the allegations against Bill Clinton are credible. So if you’re looking for a current reason for her numbers sinking, it could be that she’s married to someone most voters think is probably guilty of sexual harassment and/or assault. Allahpundit made this point yesterday:

Bill’s favorability has also taken a major hit. He stood at 69 percent favorable circa the 2012 election, then dipped to 64 a year or two later, then to 59 as Hillary moved towards a presidential run. By the time Trump was inviting Juanita Broaddrick to pre-debate press conferences last year, he was down to 50 percent favorability. Today, in the wake of Pervnado? He’s underwater at 45 percent, the first time he’s been net negative in popularity since Bush 43’s first term.

You really have to wonder why none of this occurred to Chris Cillizza. I’m not saying it’s the only explanation one could offer but if you’re giving a list of possibilities this certainly seems worthy of serious consideration.

As for his other three points, #1 seems like an attempt to blame Trump but as Cillizza points out, it’s not really Democrats dropping support for Clinton, it’s mostly Republicans. So this probably doesn’t explain the decline. Point #2 makes sense. Since the election, Clinton has devoted most of her energy to offering excuses for herself which means she is still frequently in the media blaming others for her loss. Republicans would likely forget about her if she would back away from the mic for a few months. Instead, she seems to be eager to put herself forward on various topics (especially her loss).

Finally, point #3 is at least partly true. With Obama mostly remaining behind the scenes since his departure from the White House, he’s not the face of the opposition the way he was for 8 years. But Hillary keeps popping up as if she’s thinking about running again. Again, I think the right is ready to forget about her but she doesn’t seem willing to let them.

Maybe some combination of points #2 and #3 explain her declining popularity but I wouldn’t overlook the Bill Clinton/sexual harassment story as a real possibility. Republicans have been upset about this for 19 years (and many longer than that). That may be a significant force driving Hillary’s numbers down. She has a millstone named Bill around her neck.

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022